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05/282013

Evolution Parallels Between The Telephone And Barter Exchanges

By Steven White, CEO of ITEX

(From keynote address at ITEX�s 31st annual convention.)

Organized retail barter started in 1960 with the founding of Business Exchange in Los Angeles, a company acquired by ITEX in 2005. Back then, the telephone and face-to-face meetings were the primary tools to complete a transaction. Over the last five-plus decades, our industry, led by the people either in ITEX or people who came to ITEX through acquisitions, has made significant strides forward with the help of technology, better business practices, and the longevity of many industry veterans, many of whom are in today�s audience.

Retail barter�s evolution is somewhat similar to the evolution of the telephone. Allow me to share a historical parallel. Alexander Graham Bell launched the telephone March 10, 1876, when his voice was transmitted by wire to his assistant Thomas Watson. Since that day, the telephone has completely revolutionized the way we live, socialize and conduct business.

I am a firm believer that barter, led by ITEX, will become a revolutionary tool for small businesses.

Over the years, the telephone evolved from an �operator� plugging in a wire to connect a call, to rotary phones with party lines, touch pad phones, to portable phones in your home and cell phones. Along the way, but mainly beginning in the 70�s, telephone companies added features like voicemail, call forwarding, call waiting and on-hold messages. 911 was added for emergencies and 411 for directory assistance. In order to expand the one-to-one phone call to include others, further improving their service, companies added conference calls and video conferencing to add more individuals in the communication.

What I find most amazing about the evolution of the telephone is that basic phone service, the ability to dial a number and talk with some else, has not changed much, however; the continual improvements and all the available features have made the phone almost impossible to live without.

Even with all the innovative changes, the telephone is still used for one primary purpose:  �talking to others.�

Barter is still used for one purpose:  �trade something you have for something you want.�

ITEX has expanded and greatly improved the trade transaction and we have created many valuable and useful tools for our modern-day users. Over the decades, ITEX and our dedicated team have continually worked to improve the manner in which businesses participate in our trading community, growing in size and reputation, and becoming the defacto leader in the industry. Some of our accomplishments appear simple, yet are actually quite sophisticated.

  • We invented a recognized exchange medium (the ITEX dollar) thus eliminating cumbersome one-on-one deals;
  • We developed a trading community � the largest in North America � vastly expanding buying and selling opportunities;
  • We created a multi-office system, so members can buy and sell outside of their local geographic area, something no competitor comes close to. By the way, this multi-state community is almost impossible to replicate due to our many acquisitions;
  • ITEX has acquired 34 exchanges over the years, either directly or by buying exchanges that previously acquired other exchanges. We�ve been responsible for 23 of those acquisitions since 2003. When I say 23, it means we acquired 10 exchanges directly and 13 acquisitions were previously conducted by the exchanges we acquired. We�ve benefited from the other exchanges� prior acquisitions and their hard work.

The point is; it is incredibly difficult for anyone else to set up a multi-state trading community.

  • We created an Interactive Voice Recognition telephone technology (IVR) and internet posting options to facilitate transactions � all of which can be accomplished 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
  • We created an online catalogue so members and prospective members could browse for products and services of interest;
  • We created online accounting, so members could see what they have transacted in real time and expanded that to include electronic statements. 88% of members currently receive an e-statement, none did 15 years ago;
  • We created an awesome CRM software tool we call AIM, to track member activity, make notes, and of course we have many great TEAM reports to keep us all apprised of our activity in the trading community;
  • We created an interlinked technology that seamlessly interacts between our front end, itex.com for members and the back-end in TEAM for Brokers, corporate and processing, where often there are more than 500 simultaneous users doing different functions at the same time. We once had 51 transactions post in a single second from 51 different sources � simply incredible!!

These accomplishments didn�t happen by chance or accident. Part of the ITEX culture is to imagine our future and then take actions to create it � with people, technology and perseverance. At the end of the day, we, ITEX, still provide one service: �trade something you have, for something you want.� Soon to be an indispensable tool for small business, much like the telephone has become.

(Excerpt of CEO Steven White�s keynote address at ITEX�s 31st annual convention in Orlando, Florida. � 2013 ITEX Corporation.
All rights reserved.)



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